Keystone Ski Resort is THE place for family skiing. I knew that. Keystone’s famous Kids Ski Free Program makes it an attractive choice for families, and then there are all the Kidtopia events. But would the skiing be any good in April? Here’s what you need to know about spring skiing at Keystone Ski Resort – both the good and the bad.
Best and Worst Things about Spring Skiing at Keystone Ski Resort
Our spring break is late, the first week in April. I waffled between booking a trip to Keystone Ski Resort then, or waiting until Thanksgiving. I’ve never been skiing in Keystone Colorado, but we did ski over Thanksgiving in Breckenridge.
Advice from insiders was to go in April. Was it a good choice to go in April? The answer is yes, and no. Read on for what we found. Although you might find different conditions, this will at least give you an idea of some questions to ask before you spend your time and money flying out to Denver for a spring ski vacation.
Minus: The Kidtopia Snow Fort has melted.
Plus: Warm enough for River Run games.
I was just as excited to see the largest snow fort as my son, but alas, it was no more by the time we visited the first week of April. That said, the warmer weather made it much more comfortable to play Connect Four and chess in the Keystone Village at River Run. We even hung out with a five-year-old and his dad from DC who helped me beat my son at chess. Come to think of it, I won more games at Connect Four too. #NeverLettheKidsWin
Check the Kidtopia schedule for your visit. There were several free events still happening during our trip, like the Wacky Tacky party, Saturday fireworks and kids parade. We even picked up a free scavenger hunt that takes you all around the resort. When you’ve completed it, exchange it for a cool Kidtopia hat.
Minus: No Night Skiing.
Plus: Walk on lift lines.
I initially thought we’d get into Keystone early on Wednesday, get settled and hit the slopes for night skiing that evening. No dice, the night skiing ended, plus flight issues meant we didn’t even get in until after 7 pm. But even on the nights where we could have gone, I don’t know if the snow would have been very good after a full day of folks Keystone skiing.
You can never predict the weather and no matter when you plan your ski trip, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature. The Tuesday before we arrived in Keystone CO they had a powder day in April.
Two days later we skied and it was crunchy in a couple places but pretty good. On Saturday, our last day, we ran into more slush at the bottom of the mountain. But then, they were expecting snow that evening and another powder day.
All that said, the Keystone ski area does a great job of grooming the runs, and other than waiting about five minutes to go up the gondola at the beginning of the day, we pretty much skied right onto the lift after each run, so we got in plenty of slope time. On our second day we did 12 runs before 2 pm.
Minus: The Scenic Sleigh Ride was a Wagon Ride.
Plus: The birds have returned to the ranch.
We’re from Atlanta. We’ve never been over the river and through the woods on a sleigh ride. I was stoked. But then was told, “the sleigh is now a wagon ride.” The shoulders dropped with my smile.
We went anyway and it was a wonderful evening. Truth be told, the only way you’d know you weren’t in a sleigh is if you looked down, and who would want to do that when you are going through the beautiful Soda Creek Valley.
The history of the valley and the ranch was intriguing, and there are several original buildings on the site. Between dinner and dessert, my son and I walked outside to ponder the wide-open spaces and a rancher’s life. We heard the birds singing us a lullaby. Our guide told us they only sing once spring comes. And the warmer weather meant we didn’t freeze riding to and from the ranch. The blankets they give you are nice, but they aren’t enough to keep a southerner comfortable during the mountain winter.
If you haven’t read the TripAdvisor reviews of the Scenic Sleigh Ride Dinner at Keystone Resort, they are spot on. The meal was delicious, and there was a lot of it. My son had a kid’s portion of salmon. I can’t imagine what would have been the adult portion. Tip: Mix the complimentary peppermint schnapps with the complimentary hot chocolate on the table for a scrumptious adult beverage.
The Scenic Sleigh Ride (or wagon ride) is a special family evening and one of the most popular activities at Keystone Colorado ski resort for a reason. Book early, no matter what time of year you go.
Minus: Alpenglow Stube and Der Fondue Chessel aren’t open for dinner.
Plus: It was easy to get a lounge chair at Labonte and watch the skiers.
Alpenglow Stube has the highest AAA Four-Diamond dining rating in North America. Diners must take a gondola ride just to reach it. Clearly my 12-year-old and I weren’t going to dinner there anyway, but if you are planning a really nice dinner out, be sure to ask if it will be open during your spring skiing visit. I did consider Der Fondue Chessel. I thought my son might enjoy the fondue experience.
That said, Labonte Smokehouse BBQ is really more our style anyway. At the suggestion of the server, we split the signature bowl, half mashed potatoes, half mac and cheese all topped with delicious BBQ. Afterwards, we pulled up a beach chair and watched people ski down the mountain. It was very relaxing. So relaxing we both fell asleep. It was a perfect break on the mountain.
Minus: No Granola Bars.
Plus: Lots of Hot Apple Cider.
For the past several years, the Mountain Guest Services (at Summit House) has received granola bars to give out to skiers. If they are running low, you may have to ask for them. By the time we arrived, they were out completely.
But each day we were at Keystone, guest services had hot apple cider waiting for us with a smile. It warmed you all the way through. Plus on Saturday of our stay, guest services gave out cinnamon donut holes at the base of the mountain at River Run. Add that to the Kidtopia free cookies at 4 pm, and there are lots of ways to get free sweets at Keystone Ski Resort. (Note: Keystone never knows if they’ll get the free granola bars, but it’s worth asking)
Minus: No ice skating.
Plus: Tubing still available, AND ski bikes.
Although we spent our days skiing, then falling asleep soon after we got back to the condo, if we’d had more time, I would have liked to try out tubing and snow bikes. Although ice-skating would have been fun, we can do that in Atlanta, so no big deal that the first week in April the ice rinks were closed.
We shared our Colorado Mountain Express ride to Keystone with two locals, one who has worked at Keystone, and several other Denver area ski resorts. She recommended the tubing. When I said we’d tubed before her response was, “it’s better at Keystone.”
The gentleman on our shuttle recommended the ski bikes. I thought he meant the fat tire bikes, but these are actually bikes with skis. It looks interesting, and he said it was more fun than he thought it would be, giving it a thumbs up and proclaiming it his number one non-ski activity. That’s some high praise.
Minus: River Run is Quiet.
Plus: Cheaper Prices.
We did not find a big party atmosphere at the Keystone Village at River Run. Not sure if that’s a thing even in season, but there are several bars that look like they could have some rocking good times. We opted to shoot pool on the first floor of our condo rather than go out. We got lucky too. There were a couple of young guys who were playing pool, but also messing around playing guitar and singing. They were so good, a random woman went upstairs and brought them down a tip jar with money in it.
Although you may not find crazy night life, you can find deals. Not only can you get better hotel rates for spring skiing, but going at the end of the season, the shops offer great deals too. One t-shirt shop had all the clothes (t-shirts and long sleeve pullovers) for $5. A woman’s clothing store had items up to 80 percent off. Of course, the sweater that caught my eye was not on sale and at over $500, was more than a couple of nights hotel room.
Tips for an Incredible Keystone Ski Resort Vacation
No matter when you visit Keystone Ski Resort, here are a few tips we learned.
Don’t leave ski boots in the ski locker. Rookie mistake. I put my boots at the bottom of the ski locker over night. The snow from the skis and poles dripped into my boots making them good and wet inside for the next day of skiing.
Put the Humidifier on. If your hotel has a humidifier, put it on. The low humidity at altitude keeps the air dry. You’ll want to drink more water, but a humidifier will help hydrate the air in your condo too.
Drink Water, water, water. Altitude sickness is real and I’ve experienced it both going up and coming down from Keystone Ski Resort. Drink lots of water. Not sure if you are drinking enough? Your pee should be clear. We drank so much water our second day, I was up several times that night going to the bathroom. Maybe I overdid it a little.
Don’t Plan Anything the First Night. Make sure the family is acclimated to the higher altitude before you book expensive activities.
We arrived at Keystone Ski Resort late on Wednesday. It was a long travel day. To make a long story short, we left the house at 4 am EST and arrived in Keystone after 7 pm Mountain. I was so focused on getting us to Keystone, I forgot about the altitude until we got there.
Upon arrival, we were so exhausted we just went to sleep. The next day we skied, but at about 1 pm, it hit us. We made it back to the room, started sucking down water and took some ibuprofen, but as I lay in bed, eyes closed, hoping my brains wouldn’t burst out of my head, I thought, “Thank goodness we didn’t book the wagon ride and dinner tonight.”
Get to the lift before opening. If you are coming from the east coast like we did, it’s fairly easy to get up early since you are two hours ahead anyway. To beat the lines, be at the lift before the opening. During our April visit, we only needed to arrive a few minutes before because there weren’t any lift lines. For spring skiers going when temperatures are higher, getting your runs in before the sun warms things up too much (and turns the slopes a bit slushie) is a must.
Get Breakfast at the InxSpot. I’m not a coffee drinker, but two locals we met on the Colorado Mountain Express to Keystone said the InxSpot had the best coffee. You’ll also love the pigs-in-a-blanket. These aren’t those tiny pop in your mouth kind. This is a full breakfast sausage link with buttermilk biscuit wrapped around it. It was delicious. And better still, it was only $1. Yes one dollar. That’s just unheard of in a resort town.
Wear Sunscreen, Goggles or Sunglasses. The snow can reflect UV rays more than a sunny day at the beach. My son didn’t like his goggles, and I didn’t push him to wear them. I wish I had, or bought him some sunglasses. I kept wondering why his eyes were a little red. At first I thought he was just tired. Later I realized, he had sunburned eyes, yes that is a thing. He didn’t complain about it, but I can’t help wondering what kind of permanent damage I’ve allowed to happen.